Keecha Harris, DrPH, RD is the President of KHA Inc, a public health consulting firm, where she conducts works with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Notah Begay III Foundation, and others. When she’s off work, Dr. Harris advocates for exercise for black women and girls, and helps her daughter stay healthy.
Name: Keecha Harris, DrPH, RD
Organization: KHA Inc
Connect with Keecha
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I was employed in a Head Start program as Nutrition Coordinator early in my career. I worked with the family of Tameka, a four-year old who weighed over 100 pounds. I met with her parents to provide counseling. They debated over whether she needed one or two fried chicken legs for breakfast at home before eating a second breakfast at school.
I knew that I could not do enough by working with individuals or even in one large Head Start program. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter. As a systems thinker, a registered dietitian, and a proponent for health equity, I am committed to doing more to get at the root causes of health disparities.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
In my day job, I lead a public health consulting firm. Our efforts impact the policy, systems and environments where children eat and play. Recent projects include conducting a scan for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on how it can learn from the moral imperative of the faith sector relative to its healthy weight for children policy targets, supporting Notah Begay III Foundation in the development of its strategic plan and evaluation framework for childhood obesity prevention in Indian Country, and facilitating an impact investment learning series that supported health business planning for Communities Putting Prevention to Work partners of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
My volunteerism is focused on walking advocacy for black women and girls. I volunteer with GirlTrek, a national organization whose mission is to engage one million black women and girls in its programming. Locally we have about 2,300 people engaged in our online community where we share gains, challenges and questions about physical activity. Our walking is community-based so we largely target women who bring their daughters along for walks in the park, moon lit treks, and skating parties. Trekkers also walk in their neighborhoods. I blog about our efforts for al.com and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health blog.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
My biggest accomplishment is supporting my daughter as she made changes in her eating habits and levels of physical activity in high school. Between grades 4 and 9, she was solidly in the 90th percentile for weight and height. Her BMI has been about 21 for the last 7 years.
Who is your role model in your work?
One of my historical role model is Harriet Tubman. Who can resist her model for self-determination and working against all odds? My mentor, Dr. Josephine Bowens Lewis, recently passed. She inspired me with her legacy for imparting compassion, peace and joy in all that I do.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
I really enjoyed waiting for the produce man in the summer time. I knew that sliced cucumbers or peaches were in store for me soon!